Cleaning Up Cracker Crumbs!
A Story About Passover
Passover is about freedom. However, how does this freedom work when one is admonished to keep the 613 commandments in Torah? The answer is, "Choose life. Freedom is choosing to do things God's way as set forth in the Bible." This was the answer given by Hasidic Rabbi L. in his lecture that I attended a week before Passover.
A week before his lecture, a headline in our local paper caught my eye: "Cleaning up cracker crumbs!" There was a photo with the article of a kind face of an older rabbi with black hat and flowing gray beard. The rabbi was scheduled to give a teaching entitled "What is Freedom: Preparing for Passover."
An opportunity not to be passed up! Rabbi L. was animated, energized and clearly up to the task before the mixed Jewish-gentile audience of about 60--in an auditorium with men seated to the left and women to the right (which the rabbi said had to do with "holiness," but that was a subject of another lecture).
In a most winsome way, the rabbi made the following points:
The Exodus event happened just as Moses recounted it in Torah. The proof of
this is that: a) it is written down and is in THE Book which is the best-seller of all times; b) it has been verbally handed down from generation to generation; and c) it is remembered several times daily by religious Jews in morning and evening prayers, in Shabbat service prayers weekly, at major feast celebrations throughout the year and always at Passover once a year.
2. The Children of Israel's Exodus from Egypt is the most important reality for
the Jewish people. In giving the Ten Commandments, God identified Himself not as "the God who created the universe," but as "the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery" (Exodus 20:2). (The orthodox count the number of laws in Torah as 613! A Methodist lady sitting next to me said, "I thought there were just ten! Is that in our Bible?!")
3. The purpose for God's delivering His people out of slavery? To worship and
serve Him! At the burning bush, God said to Moses: "When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain" (Exodus 3:12). And again, "Let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God" (Exodus 3:18).
4. Why do we keep telling this story over and over again? To pass on to the next
generations God's great deliverance of his people. There are other "reminders" as well: the mezuzot on the doorposts of the house with Scripture inside, which a Jewish person passes as he goes in and out. This is a reminder of the blood put on the doorposts of the houses on the first Passover in Egypt, which caused the angel of death to pass over the houses with blood. The tzittzit or fringes that the religious Jewish man wears (Numbers 15:37-39) remind him of the Law given at Sinai on the 50th day after the Israelites left Egypt.
5. The four cups of wine drunk at a Passover Seder meal are called the "four
languages of freedom," taken from Exodus 6:6-8:
>I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians;
>I will free you from being slaves to them;
>I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of
>I will take you as my own people and I will be your God.
But what is Freedom?
A learned and revered rabbi of Prague said there were four stages of freedom reflecting the four biblical promises of God:
>Removal from oppression
>Removal from a slave mentality
>Physical freedom, i.e. getting out of the land
>Becoming a "new man" --finding a new direction and goal in life.
The one biblical command to be obeyed at a Seder meal is this: You must eat matza or unleavened bread (Exodus 12: 14, 15). The rest of the symbolic foods are traditional.
Which brings up those cracker crumbs! Why can there be not a crumb of leaven in the house at Pesach? Not a crumb that can be seen or anything mixed with leaven? The Rabbi's answer: "Leaven is a symbol of the human heart. Like yeast puffs dough up, so pride and haughtiness puffs man up." And, by the way, what does Torah call Moses? "The meekest of all men," and what does his eulogy call him? "The servant of the LORD" (Deuteronomy 34:5). Rabbis see Moses as a man without leaven.
There is so much richness we can learn from teachers like Rabbi L., who are steeped in the Hebrew Scriptures, especially the first five books of the Bible, i.e., Torah. The evening provided a stimulating Bible study with a blend of humor, stories of rabbis from the past, and a peep into the thinking of Hasidic Jewish Torah teaching.
As the rabbi spoke through those 90 or so minutes on "Freedom and the Passover," my mind was running through the writings of the Jewish writers of the Brit Chadasha, i.e., the Newer Testament. For them, too, the Passover was the seminal story of their people. The chosen twelve had spent their last night with their Rabbi Yeshua at a Passover Seder meal at which he had washed their feet. Jesus is truly God's Servant and a Man without leaven. He explained to the Disciples how His body and blood was symbolized in the meal -- that matza and the third "cup of redemption." How I longed for this dear rabbi to know "the rest of the story."
Another rabbi known as Shaul (Paul) had this same longing for his Jewish people to know the truth of the true Passover Lamb who was sacrificed for them -- once for all. When the discussion came to the lamb's blood and the sacrifice of that lamb at that first Passover in Egypt, Rabbi L brushed it aside with the words, "We will skip the part about the sacrifice"! I wanted to scream: "But the lamb is the central player of the story!!"
Paul had studied under the most renowned rabbis of his day. He self-identified as "circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, in regard to the law, a Pharisee..." (Philippians 3: 5). His letters to the churches are filled with quotes, applications and illustrations of his learning from the Hebrew Scriptures.
Paul's anguish for his unsaved Jewish brothers broke his heart (Romans 9: 1-4; 10: 1). He explained their blindness this way: "to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Messiah is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their heart. But whenever anyone turns to the LORD, the veil is taken away. Now the LORD is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Cor. 3: 14-17).
Paul, like Rabbi L., commented about "leaven." Speaking to the situation of an immoral brother in the Corinthian church, which the church was tolerating in its fellowship, Paul used the same metaphor for "yeast": "Your boasting [being puffed up] is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast -- as you really are. For Messiah our Passover lamb has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth"
(1 Corinthians 5: 6-8).
Remarking on the Deuteronomy passage re: Moses' title as servant, the writer of the Book of Hebrews acknowledges that "Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house . . . but Messiah is faithful as a son over God's house" (Heb.3: 5, 6).
As to the topic of ultimate freedom, John recorded: "To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free' " (John 8: 31, 32).
While there is much we can learn from pious rabbis of our day, we must keep in mind that Jesus "is the stone the builders rejected [which] has become the capstone" (Psalm 118:22). May this time of Passover, which Jews worldwide will be celebrating around their tables this week, cause us to pray fervently for the veil to be lifted from their eyes as they read the story of Freedom at Seder meals. May they see Jesus their Messiah!